Monday, September 10, 2012

The News You've All Been Waiting For

DSK (allgedly) has a new girlfriend:
Plusieurs photos dans VSD montrent l'ex-patron du FMI enlaçant une femme qui se prénomme Myriam, "pétillante quadragénaire", "célibataire", "occupant un poste à responsabilités dans une grande chaîne de télévision", selon le magazine.

"Culture is the Hard Disk of Politics"

The minister of culture, Aurélie Filipetti, has delivered herself of an oracular pronouncement. Her actual words were: "Encore une fois, je défends l'idée que le patrimoine et la création sont le disque dur d'une politique générale." This is surely the most inelegant remark about culture ever made by a person in this position, and I'm sure that André Malraux is spinning in his grave faster than the 10,000 RPM of a first-rate hard disk.

I have no idea what Filipetti means by these words, and I'm not sure she does either. No doubt they emerged from her lips because le numérique is much on her mind. But it gets worse:

Quand on numérise les archives départementales du Tarn, c'est 65 millions de pages vues dans l'année. La culture est le ciment du pays.
I'm sure that digitizing the 65 million pages in the AD Tarn will be of great use to future historians, but is this really the "culture" that hardens into "the cement of the country?"

Ah, well, never mind. There are other priorities, such as shutting down certain costly pet projects of Sarkozy's, such as the history museum and the museum of Lascaux cave painting and the photo museum and a new theater for the Comédie Française. Austerity hits home. But exactly how were these priorities determined?

Arnault Sues Libé

Bernard Arnault is suing Libération for publicly insulting him with a headline that obviously paraphrased the words of a former president of the Republic: "Casse-toi riche con!"

Le patron de LVMH, Bernard Arnault, a décidé de porter plainte contre le journal "Libération" pour "injures publiques proférées à son égard", selon un communiqué, après la Une choc du quotidien lundi "Casse toi, riche con!" qui fustigeait sa demande de naturalisation belge.
An interesting legal conundrum: Can you sue someone for injures publiques when the injure in question is borrowed from a head of state?

L'Europe, la grande absente

I mentioned the other day a certain nombrilisme in the French press, which devotes much less attention to European issues than, say, the German or Italian press. In this respect, François Hollande was representative of his countrymen in his TF1 interview last night. Although he claims Jacques Delors as his second mentor, after François Mitterrand, both of whom were committed "Europeans," and although he enjoys a reputation as a staunch European himself, there was not a word about the crisis of the euro, the Draghi plan, or the fiscal pact in Hollande's discussion with Claire Chazal. France's budgetary problems were presented in strictly Franco-French terms. The need for labor-market reform was discussed as a "competitiveness" measure, without describing the nature of the competition or the strategy for adapting the structure of French industry to meet it.

The avoidance of Europe is comprehensible, given the sourness of French public sentiment toward the EU at the moment. In every respect, the EU is seen as a fetter on French autonomy, so it is easy to understand why a "normal" president who wishes to enhance his reputation for "action" would avoid touching on anything that might inhibit his freedom to act. But this is no way to build support for Europe, which is badly needed and may become an explosive issue as the austerity measures implicit in the Hollande budget wreak their anticipated havoc. The French will ask why they must suffer this pain, and Hollande had better have answers. Those answers must include a robust defense of the EU as the vehicle for eventual French success in global competition. The argument can be made, but Hollande has been remarkably reticent about articulating it, creating an enormous opening for Europe's vociferous detractor J.-L. Mélenchon--and soon, presumably, Marine Le Pen, although she has been strangely silent since the election.

Interesting Electoral Data from INSEE

INSEE has published data on participation in the 2012 presidential election. The young and the old were most likely not to vote, either because they were not registered (in the case of the young) or abstained (in the case of the old). Since older voters were expected to be a core group in Sarkozy's base, this high abstention rate is surely one factor in his defeat:

(h/t Laurent Bouvet)